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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThere & Back - Chapter 62. The Quarrel
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There & Back - Chapter 62. The Quarrel Post by :Merry_V Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :2232

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There & Back - Chapter 62. The Quarrel

CHAPTER LXII. THE QUARREL

For a few weeks, things went smoothly enough. Not a jar occurred in the feeble harmony, not a questionable cloud appeared above the horizon. The home-weather seemed to have grown settled. Lady Ann was not unfriendly. Richard, having provided himself with tools for the purpose, bound her prayer-book in violet velvet, with her arms cut out in gold on the cover; and she had not seemed altogether ungrateful. Arthur showed no active hostility, made indeed some little fight with himself to behave as a brother ought to a brother he would rather not have found. Far from inseparable, they were yet to be seen together about the place. Vixen had not once made a face to his face; I will not say she had made none at his back. Theodora and he were fast friends. Miss Malliver, now a sort of upper slave to lady Ann, cringed to him.

Arthur readily sold him Miss Brown, and every day she carried him to Barbara. But he took the advice of Wingfold, and was not long from home any day, but much at hand to his father's call, who had many things for him to do, and was rejoiced to find him, unlike Arthur, both able and ready. He would even send him where a domestic might have done as well; but Richard went with hearty good will. It gladdened him to be of service to the old man. Then a rumour reached his father's ears, carried to lady Ann by her elderly maid, that Richard had been seen in low company; and he was not long in suspecting the truth of the matter.

Not once before since Richard's return, had sir Wilton given the Mansons a thought, never doubting his son's residence at Oxford must have cured him of a merely accidental inclination to such low company, and made evident to him that recognition of such relationship as his to them was an unheard-of impropriety, a sin against social order, a class-treachery.

Almost every day Richard went to Wylder Hall, he had a few minutes with Alice at the parsonage. Neither Barbara nor her lawless, great-hearted mother, would have been pleased to have it otherwise. Barbara treated Alice as a sister, and so did Helen Wingfold, who held that such service as hers must be recompensed with love, and the money thrown in. Their kindness, with her new peace of heart, and plenty of food and fresh air, had made her strong and almost beautiful.

It was Richard's custom to ride over in the morning, but one day it was more convenient for him to go in the evening, and that same evening it happened that Arthur Manson had gone to see his sister. When Richard, on his way back from the Hall, found him at the parsonage, he proposed to see him home: Miss Brown was a good walker, and if Arthur did not choose to ride all the way, they would ride and walk alternately. Arthur was delighted, and they set out in the dusk on foot, Alice going a little way with them. Richard led Miss Brown, and Alice clung joyously to his arm: but for Richard, she would not have known that human being ever was or could be so happy! The western sky was a smoky red; the stars were coming out; the wind was mild, and seemed to fill her soul with life from the fountain of life, from God himself. For Alice had been learning from Barbara--not to think things, but to feel realities, the reality of real things--to see truths themselves. Often, when Mrs. Wingfold could spare her, Barbara would take her out for a walk. Then sometimes as they walked she would quite forget her presence, and through that very forgetting, Alice learned much. When first she saw Barbara lost in silent joy, and could see nothing to make her look glad, she wondered a moment, then swiftly concluded she must be thinking of God. When she saw her spread out her arms as if to embrace the wind that flowed to meet them, then too she wondered, but presently began to feel what a thing the wind was--how full of something strange and sweet. She began to learn that nothing is dead, that there cannot be a physical abstraction, that nothing exists for the sake of the laws of its phenomena. She did not put it so to herself, I need hardly say; but she was, in a word, learning to feel that the world was alive. Of the three she was the merriest that night as they went together along the quiet road. A little way out of the village, Richard set her on the mare, and walked by her side, leading Miss Brown. Such was the tolerably sufficient foundation for the report that he was seen rollicking with a common-looking lad and a servant girl on the high road, in the immediate vicinity of Wylder Hall.

"He is his father's son!" reflected lady Ann.

"He's a chip of the old block!" said sir Wilton to himself. But he did not approve of the openness of the thing. To let such doings be seen was low! Presently fell an ugly light on the affair.

"By Jove!" he said to himself, "it's the damned Manson girl! I'll lay my life on it! The fellow is too much of a puritan to flaunt his own foibles in the public eye; but, damn him, he don't love his father enough not to flaunt his! Dead and buried, the rascal hauls them out of their graves for men to see! It's all the damned socialism of his mother's relations! Otherwise the fellow would be all a father could wish! I might have known it! The Armour blood was sure to break out! What business has he with what his father did before he was born! He was nowhere then, the insolent dog! He shall do as I tell him or go about his business--go and herd with the Mansons and all the rest of them if he likes, and be hanged to them!"

He sat in smouldering rage for a while, and then again his thoughts took shape in words, though not in speech.

"How those fools of Wylders will squirm when I cut the rascal off with a shilling, and settle the property on the man the little lady refused! But Dick will never be such a fool! He cannot reconcile his puritanism with such brazen-faced conduct! I shall never make a gentleman of him! He will revert to the original type! It had disappeared in his mother! What's bred in the damned bone will never out of the damned flesh!"

Richard was at the moment walking with Mr. Wingfold in the rectory garden. They were speaking of what the Lord meant when he said a man must leave all for him. As soon us he entered his father's room, he saw that something had gone wrong with him.

"What is it, father?" he said.

"Richard, sit down," said sir Wilton. "I must have a word with you:--What young man and woman were you walking with two nights ago, not far from Wylder Hall?"

"My brother and sister, sir--the Mansons."

"My God, I thought as much!" cried the baronet, and started to his feet--but sat down again: the fetter of his gout pulled him back. "Hold up your right hand," he went on--sir Wilton was a magistrate--"and swear by God that you will never more in your life speak one word to either of those--persons, or leave my house at once."

"Father," said Richard, his voice trembling a little, "I cannot obey you. To deny my friends and relations, even at your command, would be to forsake my Master. It would be to break the bonds that bind men, God's children, together."

"Hold your cursed jargon! Bonds indeed! Is there no bond between you and your father!"

"Believe me, father, I am very sorry, but I cannot help it. I dare not obey you. You have been very kind to me, and I thank you from my heart,--"

"Shut up, you young hypocrite! you have tongue enough for three!--Come, I will give you one chance more! Drop those persons you call your brother and sister, or I drop you."

"You must drop me, then, father!" said Richard with a sigh.

"Will you do as I tell you?"

"No, sir. I dare not."

"Then leave the house."

Richard rose.

"Good-bye, sir," he said.

"Get out of the house."

"May I not take my tools, sir?"

"What tools, damn you!"

"I got some to bind lady Ann's prayer-book."

"She's taken him in! By Jove, she's done him, the fool! She's been keeping him up to it, to enrage me and get rid of him!" said the baronet to himself.

"What do you want them for?" he asked, a little calmer.

"To work at my trade. If you turn me out, I must go back to that."

"Damn your soul! it never was, and never will be anything but a tradesman's! Damn _my soul, if I wouldn't rather make young Manson my heir than you!--No, by Jove, you shall _not have your damned tools! Leave the house. You cannot claim a chair-leg in it!"

Richard bowed, and went; got his hat and stick; and walked from the house with about thirty shillings in his pocket. His heart was like a lump of lead, but he was nowise dismayed. He was in no perplexity how to live. Happy the man who knows his hands the gift of God, the providers for his body! I would in especial that teachers of righteousness were able, with St. Paul, to live by their hands! Outside the lodge-gate he paused, and stood in the middle of the road thinking. Thus far he had seen his way, but no farther. To which hand must he turn? Should he go to his grandfather, or to Barbara?

He set out, plodding across the fields, for Wylder Hall. There was no Miss Brown for him now. Miss Wylder, they told him, was in the garden. She sat in a summer-house, reading a story. When she heard his step, she knew, from the very sound of it, that he was discomposed. Never was such a creature for interpreting the signs of the unseen! Her senses were as discriminating as those of wild animals that have not only to find life but to avoid death by the keenness of their wits. She came out, and met him in the dim green air under a wide-spreading yew.

"What is the matter, Richard?" she said, looking in his face with anxiety. "What has gone wrong?"

"My father has turned me out."

"Turned you out?"

"Yes. I must swear never to speak another word to Alice or Arthur, or go about my business. I went."

"Of course you did!" cried Barbara, lifting her dainty chin an inch higher.

Then, after a little pause, in which she looked with loving pride straight into his eyes--for was he not a man after her own brave big heart!--she resumed:

"Well, it is no worse for you than before, and ever so much better for me!--What are you going to do, Richard?--There are so many things you could turn to now!"

"Yes, but only one I can do well. I might get fellows to coach, but I should have to wait too long--and then I should have to teach what I thought worth neither the time nor the pay. I prefer to live by my hands, and earn leisure for something else."

"I like that," said Barbara. "Will it take you long to get into the way of your old work?"

"I don't think it will," answered Richard; "and I believe I shall do better at it now. I was looking at some of it yesterday morning, and was surprised I should have been pleased with it. In myself growing, I have grown to demand better work--better both in idea and execution."

"It is horrid to have you go," said Barbara; "but I will think you up to God every day, and dream about you every night, and read about you every book. I will write to you, and you will write to me--and--and"--she was on the point of crying, but would not--"and then the old smell of the leather and the paste will be so nice!"

She broke into a merry laugh, and the crisis was over. They walked together to the smithy. Fierce was the wrath of the blacksmith. But for the presence of Barbara, he would have called his son-in-law ugly names. His anger soon subsided, however, and he laughed at himself for spending indignation on such a man.

"I might have known him by this time!" he said. "--But just let him come near the smithy!" he resumed, and his eyes began to flame again. "He shall know, if he does, what a blacksmith thinks of a baronet!--What are you going to do, my son?"

"Go back to my work."

"Never to that old-wife-trade?" cried the blacksmith. "Look here, Richard!" he said, and bared his upper arm, "there's what the anvil does!" Then he bent his shoulders, and began to wheeze. "And there's what the bookbinding does!" he continued. "No, no; you turn in with me, and we'll show them a sight!--a gentleman that can make his living with his own hands! The country shall see sir Wilton Lestrange's heir a blacksmith because he wouldn't be a snob and deny his own flesh and blood!--'I saw your son to-day, sir Wilton--at the anvil with his grandfather! What a fine fellow he do be! Lord, how he do make the sparks fly!'--If I had him, the old sinner, he should see sparks that came from somewhere else than the anvil!--You turn in with me, Richard, and do work fit for a man!"

"Grandfather," answered Richard, "I couldn't do your work so well as my own."

"Yes, you could. In six weeks you'll be a better smith than ever you'd be a bookbinder. There's no good or bad in that sort of soft thing! I'll make you a better blacksmith than myself. There! I can't say fairer!"

"But don't you think it better not to irritate my father more than I must? I oughtn't to torment him. As long as I was here he would fancy me braving him. When I am out of sight, he may think of me again and want to see me--as Job said his maker would."

"I don't remember," said Barbara. "Tell me."

"He says to God--I was reading it the other day--'I wish you would hide me in the grave till you've done being angry with me! Then you would want to see again the creature you had made; you would call me, and I would answer!' God's not like that, of course, but my father might be. There is more chance of his getting over it, if I don't trouble him with sight or sound of me."

"Well, perhaps you're right!" said Simon. "Off with you to your woman's work! and God bless you!"

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